Less content for a more changing world?
One of the things that often pop up on the wish lists for MMORPGs is that actions that you should be able to affect the state of the world, to be able to make a mark somehow.
Few games get close to fullfilling that request, basically only sandbox-type games like EVE may aspire to at least partially fulfill that wish.
Part of the problem here is that changed content = new content, which somehow must be produced. There is no chance game companies can keep up with the players in this regard. So what solutions are there – should all content be player created and player managed? Do we need a Second Life-type environment?
Another possible option could be to set a definite end to the game world. I.e. the game world will change according to some criteria and player actions and at some point it is done. At that point it could basically start all over again, from scratch. The game developers do not have to create entirely new all the time, they can run the game again, perhaps with some additions and changes.
And those changes could be to both areas, content and/or game mechanics. Not huge changes, but perhaps enough to allow for some different types of progression.
E.g. a Highlander MMORPG – the world is moving forward in time, the immortals fight each other and when there is only one left the game ends – and starts again from scratch. Now there would probably be some challenges with a Highlander game close to the original, since people might not enjoy getting killed early and drop out of the game for example.
Another idea might be alternate reality type environments. Each round of playing represents one slightly different setting and different conditions. There are plenty of examples in litterature of both subtle and significant changes.
A Tale in the Desert have applied this concept and that game has been running a few rounds now. While that particular game itself may not be for everyone, the idea behind a definite end and start of the MMORPG has a certain appeal.
Some continuity should still be there and keep player connections between rounds, in whatever ways one has added support for guilds, teams, chat organisation etc.
Just by allowing the game to actually have an end the game developers could try different mechanics and options to affect and change the play styles possible. This might get players a bit closer to the dream of an everchanging world in which they play a siginficant part.